FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Sept. 18, 2009
CONTACT: Caneta Hankins, 615-898-2947
SHELBY COUNTY FARM JOINS STATE’S CENTURY FARMS PROGRAM
159-Year-Old Barret Farm Becomes County’s 13th Century Farm;
Founder’s Ties Extended Throughout Community & Beyond His Home County
(MURFREESBORO)—Located in Shelby County, the Barret Farm has been designated as a Tennessee Century Farm, announced Caneta S. Hankins, director of the Century Farms program at the Center for Historic Preservation, which is located on the MTSU campus
In 1850, Anthony Robert Barret purchased just more than 75 acres in Shelby County. Barret had family ties through his mother, Nancy Sanford, to Sumner County, home of Gen. James Winchester, one of the founders of Memphis.
Married to Rebecca Hill, of Norfolk , Va., in 1850, the couple had four children. In Early Families of the Memphis Area, compiled by Barret descendent Paul A. Matthews, Anthony also founded the unincorporated community of Barretville. In 1856, he constructed the first general store building for the community. The store sold food, hardware, clothing, fertilizer and other items, and was the place where people gathered to share news and socialize.
During the first half of the 20th century, Barret’s enterprises expanded from the general store at Barretville to include general stores at Idaville, Kerrville, Millington and Mudville. In addition, 3,000 acres of farmland in Shelby and Tipton counties, cotton gins at Barretville, Idaville, Kerrville, Brighton, Collierville and Atoka were established. The Barret enterprises also included a cottonseed delinter plant at Barretville and the Barretville Bank & Trust Company and its affiliates.
The second generation to own the farm was the founder’s son, James Hill Barret. Married to Evangeline “Eva” Burrow, they had two children, Albert Reed and Paul Weisiger. The family raised cotton, hogs, poultry, apples and vegetables. While managing the farm, James also held a number of public offices, including service on the Shelby County Quarterly Court from 1894 to 1936 and as chairman from 1904 to 1907. As chairman, James appointed the members of the commission who oversaw the construction of the Shelby County Courthouse. He also was the Shelby County Register from 1907 to 1910 and was influential in establishing the first high school for African Americans, constructed in 1925, in northern Shelby County. The school was named Barret’s Chapel in honor of his role in establishing the school.
James’s wife, Evangeline also was active in the community and taught school at Bolton College, an agricultural and teaching institution that later became Bolton High School. In addition to teaching in the public schools, she was active in the Women’s Christian Association of Memphis, the Memphis Federation of Churches, the Red Cross and she taught Bible classes for several local Presbyterian churches.
After passing through several generations of the family, the farm is now owned by the great-great-grandson of the founder, Paul A. Matthews. Paul and wife Roberta,
along with their daughters, Sarah Pierrepont Matthews and Elizabeth “Betsy” Barret Matthews, live on the farm.
Paul is a Memphis attorney with the firm of Bourland, Heflin, Alvarez, Minor & Matthews, PLC, and has served on the directors’ board of the Memphis Bar Association. He was appointed to the Tennessee Historical Commission by Gov. Ned McWherter, and then later, by Gov. Phil Bredesen.
Paul co-authored the book titled Passport to Tennessee History, which was published by the Tennessee Historical Commission in 1996 to commemorate the Tennessee bicentennial. He also served as chairman of the Shelby County Historical Commission, trustee of St. Mary’s Episcopal School and president of several organizations such as the Mental Health Society of Memphis and Shelby County, the Davies Manor Association and the Descendents of Early Settlers of Shelby and Adjoining Counties.
Currently, the land is rented to the Sneed Brothers who grows cotton and soybeans as primary crops on about 60 acres, including a 28-acre portion of land that dates from the original farmstead. The residence—known as “Squire’s Rest” in honor of Paul W. Barret (1899-1976), a squire on the old Shelby County Quarterly Court—is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, along with barn and washhouse that were built in the 1920s.
“The contributions of the generations of Barret and Matthews families to the history of Memphis and Shelby County and to Tennessee are well-documented,” Hankins observed. “This historic agrarian landscape, which has remained intact and within the same family for nearly 160 years in an area of constant urban development, is both remarkable and worthy of recognition.”
The Barret Farm joins 12 other certified Century Farms in Shelby County, Hankins added.
About the Century Farms Program
The Century Farm Program recognizes the contributions of Tennessee residents who have continuously owned, and kept in production, family land for at least 100 years. Since 1984, the CHP at MTSU has been a leader in the important work of documenting Tennessee’s agricultural heritage and history through the Tennessee Century Farm Program, and continues to administer this program.
The Tennessee Department of Agriculture began the Tennessee Century Farm Program in 1976 as part of the nation’s bicentennial. Today, the TDA provides a
metal outdoor sign, noting either 100, 150 or 200 years of “continuous agricultural production” to Century Farm families.
To be considered for eligibility, a farm must be owned by the same family for at least 100 years; must produce $1,000 revenue annually; must have at least 10 acres of the original farm; and one owner must be a resident of Tennessee.
“The Century Farmers represent all the farm families of Tennessee,” Hankins said, “and their contributions to the economy, and to the social, cultural and agrarian vitality of the state, both past and present, is immeasurable. Each farm is a Tennessee treasure.”
For more information about the Century Farms Program, please visit its Web site at http://histpres.mtsu.edu/histpres. The Center for Historic Preservation also may be contacted via mail at Box 80, MTSU, Murfreesboro, Tenn., 37132, or by telephone at 615-898-2947.
• ATTENTION, MEDIA: To interview the farm’s owners, please contact the CHP directly at 615-898-2947.